Election Law to Rahm: No Mayor's Race for You?

When Rahm Emanuel resigned as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, everyone and his brother assumed he did so to assume the Mayoralty of Chicago.

However, if a certain Chicago lawyer has his way, Emanuel’s climb into the driver’s seat of the Chicago political machine will end before it even begins.

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (D) may face as many as 19 other contenders in the race to succeed retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), according to candidate filings submitted Monday. But even before Emanuel contends with his rivals on the ballot, he’ll have to overcome another hurdle: a dispute over his residency.

Election law attorney Burt Odelson, who also has served as an adviser to several of Emanuel’s opponents in the race, is planning to file a legal challenge with the Chicago Board of Elections as early as tomorrow arguing that Emanuel does not meet Illinois’ residency requirement for candidates running for municipal office. In an interview with The Fix, Odelson said that he is representing a group of Chicago citizens and that no campaign is involved in the challenge.

According to Illinois’ municipal code, candidates have to be a resident of the state for a year prior to the election. Emanuel moved back to the state in October, a full seven months too late to qualify, if you follow the letter of the statute, so he should not be allowed to run. However, Emanuel does not plan to argue the letter of the law but the spirit. He claims that his intention was to remain a resident, since he voted an absentee ballot in Illinois, kept his vehicle registered there, and paid property taxes on the home he owns there.

That home will really be the central issue of the case. Odelson’s argument is that Emanuel didn’t have a home to which he could reside, since he rented it out. In fact, Emanuel can’t move into his house since he extended the agreement with the guy to whom he’s renting the house into 2011 and the renter, who is now a Mayoral candidate himself had refused to leave. On the other hand, Emanuel will likely argue that he doesn’t have to live in the house to be a resident since he’s legally cast absentee ballots, which he couldn’t do if he weren’t, even in Chicago.

I have no idea how this case will end, though I suspect Emanuel will win it because, well, we’re talking about Chicago and Rahm Emanuel here. I can’t imagine there’s a judge in the city who would stand in the way of a guy who will chase you down and accost you in a shower to get what he wants. However, it could slow Emanuel down long enough for a relatively popular icon of Chicago politics with US Senate experience and the Barack Obama stamp of approval to sneak in and beat him.

Now wouldn’t that be something to see?

(via memeorandum)